Community responds to Operation Gunsmoke


We have reaction from community members after law enforcement announced dozens of indictments for drugs, guns and criminal street gangs in the two state. 

We looked over those indictments and found the addresses for three people arrested in Aiken; one man accused of drug trafficking and the sale of guns illegally, another man, a convicted felon with weapons dealing without a license and a woman charged with distributing meth and crack cocaine.

We spoke with people in some of those neighborhoods and they are pleased with the police work done to keep them safe.  

“Drugs are certainly a big problem in this community and in this neighborhood also,” said Rev. Angela McGhee, Ebenezer AME Church Pastor.  “We’re so glad that the police are diligent in surveying the area on our behalf.”

When Rev. McGhee heard of Operation Gunsmoke, it reminded her of the TV show from years ago.  But this pastor’s reality is not fictional, it is real. 

“We’re a small church, majority women, we come in and out during the early evenings at night and on the weekends,” she explained.

Rev. McGhee’s concern is valid after just learning one of the 26 people arrested in the multi-state crackdown was 42-year-old Benjamin Roper, with an address down the street from the place of worship.

She added, “I think recently we heard that there was some sort of raid down the street and some shooting that took place.  Certainly there was some concern.” 

Roper is charged with having a weapon as a felon and dealing with firearms without a license.  

Heather Collins, of Vine Street, sits in jail on charges of meth and crack cocaine distribution.

Across town, 34-year-old Antonio Maurice Scrivens, a/k/a “Bucko,” was locked up for the same charges as Roper along with trafficking drugs.

“I’m 66-years-old,” said Mary Bruce.  “Proud of it.  And when you are scared to come out of your door with a whole lot of stuff going on. You need it to be clean. Now it’s safe.  We can walk around free.”

Bruce lives near Plunkett Avenue across the street from “Bucko’s” last known address. 

“I’ve never had no problem. I live right here,” Bruce said of the crime.  “The young people come around and they speak to me with respect and they go on their way.  I hear what’s going on, but I don’t know it.  If it is, I hope it stops.”  

The joint task force made it clear it will keep working to make sure violent street crimes come to an end.

ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian Mein, said “[those arrested] are not under investigation by chance, they’re under investigation because they’re among some of the most violent folks in this area.”

ATF started this investigation in 2017 with a member of the Bloods street gang in Aiken County.  While 26 people are charged, more are expected to come. 

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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